What is the origin of the phrase ‘to call an audible

What is the origin of the phrase ‘to call an audible’? Have you ever wondered about the meaning behind this intriguing phrase? Whether you’ve heard it in the context of sports, movies, or everyday conversations, understanding its origin can provide fascinating insights into its usage and significance. In this article, we will delve into the roots of this phrase and explore its evolution across various fields. So, let’s dive in and unravel the intriguing story behind ‘to call an audible’!

Understanding Audible Calls

When it comes to sports, what is an audible call? An audible call refers to a strategic decision made by a player or coach during a game to change or adjust the originally planned play at the last moment. It is a spontaneous alteration made based on various factors, such as the opponent’s defense, positioning of players, or unexpected circumstances on the field. Audibles are commonly used in sports like American football, basketball, and soccer.

Let’s take a closer look at some examples of popular sports where audible calls are common. In American football, quarterbacks often call audibles to change the play at the line of scrimmage, taking into account the defensive formation or to exploit a weakness in the opponent’s tactics. Basketball players may call audibles to adjust offensive sets or defensive assignments based on the opponent’s strategies. In soccer, audibles are frequently used to modify set-piece plays or change the direction of attack based on the movement of the opposing team.

Historical Origins of Audible Calls

Let’s delve into the historical origins of audible calls, particularly in the realm of American football. Audible calls have their roots in the evolution of the game itself. As football strategies become more complex, coaches and players realized the need for flexibility to adjust their plays on the fly. This led to the introduction of audible calls as a means to adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of the game.

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One significant development in the history of audible calls was the introduction of the quarterback’s role in calling audibles. Quarterbacks, being the leaders on the field, are often entrusted with the responsibility of analyzing the defense and making real-time decisions to change the play. This evolution allowed teams to exploit weaknesses in the opponent’s defense or take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

While audible calls have a strong association with American football, their influence extends to other sports as well. For instance, in baseball, catchers and pitchers use audibles to communicate and adjust the pitch selection based on the batter’s tendencies. Similarly, basketball players employ audibles to modify offensive plays or defensive assignments to counter the opponent’s strategies. In soccer, audibles are used to change the direction of attack or adjust set-piece plays based on the movements of the opposing team.

The Phrase ‘To Call an Audible’

Let’s uncover the origin of the phrase ‘to call an audible’ and its relation to sports. The phrase finds its roots in the early days of audible calls in football. As quarterbacks began making real-time adjustments to their plays, announcers and commentators needed a concise way to describe this action. Thus, the phrase ‘to call an audible’ emerged as a shorthand expression to denote the quarterback’s decision to change the play at the line of scrimmage.

Over time, the phrase ‘to call an audible’ has evolved and been adopted in broader contexts beyond sports. Its popularity has extended into everyday language, symbolizing the act of making a spontaneous change or adjustment in any situation. This can range from altering plans in a business meeting to adjusting strategies in personal life.

Figurative Use of the Phrase

Let’s explore the figurative meaning and usage of the phrase ‘to call an audible’ beyond its sports-related origins. In a non-sports context, the phrase signifies the act of making a spontaneous decision or adapting to unexpected circumstances. It has become a metaphor for flexibility and the ability to change course when faced with new information or challenges.

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The figurative use of ‘to call an audible’ can be found in various scenarios. For example, in a business setting, it might refer to the ability to quickly adjust strategies or plans based on market conditions or unforeseen events. It highlights the importance of agility and the capacity to respond effectively to changing circumstances.

In personal life, the phrase can be used to describe the act of altering plans or making on-the-spot decisions in response to unforeseen circumstances. It emphasizes the importance of being adaptable and open to change, enabling individuals to navigate unexpected situations with ease.

Metaphorically, the phrase ‘to call an audible’ implies a sense of control and agency in the face of uncertainty. It suggests that one has the power to take charge of a situation and make decisions that can lead to a favorable outcome. By embracing the metaphorical implications of the phrase, individuals can cultivate a mindset of adaptability and resourcefulness.

Pop Culture References

Let’s highlight instances of the phrase ‘to call an audible’ in popular culture, including references in movies, TV shows, books, and music. The phrase has made its way into the mainstream, becoming a recognizable expression beyond its original sports context.

In movies and TV shows, ‘to call an audible’ is often used to depict characters making impromptu decisions or changing plans on the fly. It adds a layer of realism and relatability to the storytelling, as viewers can identify with the need to adapt in unexpected situations. These references help solidify the phrase’s place in popular culture, reinforcing its widespread usage.

Likewise, in books, authors incorporate the phrase ‘to call an audible’ to convey characters’ ability to adjust their actions based on new information or circumstances. It serves as a literary device to emphasize the characters’ resourcefulness and problem-solving skills. By using the phrase, authors tap into its familiarity and the metaphorical implications it carries.

Music, too, has embraced the phrase ‘to call an audible’ in its lyrics. Artists use it metaphorically to depict moments of spontaneity or the need to change course in relationships, careers, or personal journeys. These references in music contribute to the phrase’s continued relevance and its resonance with listeners.

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Technical FAQs: Origin of the phrase ‘to call an audible’

What is the origin of the phrase ‘to call an audible’? 

The phrase originated in American football, specifically from the practice of a quarterback changing a play at the line of scrimmage based on the defensive alignment.

When was the phrase ‘to call an audible’ first used in football? 

The phrase started being used in football in the mid-20th century, gaining popularity in the 1960s and 1970s.

Who is credited with popularizing the use of the phrase in football? 

Legendary football coach Don Coryell is often credited with popularizing the concept of calling an audible and making it a common practice in the game.

Has the phrase ‘to call an audible’ been adopted in other sports? 

While primarily associated with American football, the concept of making on-the-spot changes has been adapted in other sports like basketball and hockey, but with different terminology.

How has the phrase ‘to call an audible’ evolved beyond its sports origins? 

The phrase has evolved metaphorically, extending beyond sports, and is now used in various contexts to describe making spontaneous decisions or adapting to unexpected situations.


The phrase ‘to call an audible’ has a captivating origin and a rich history. From its humble beginnings in the realm of American football to its widespread usage in sports and beyond, this phrase has become deeply ingrained in our language. By understanding its roots and evolution, we gain a deeper appreciation for its importance in enhancing team communication, strategy, and decision-making. Moreover, the figurative use of the phrase in non-sports contexts showcases its metaphorical power and adaptability.

As we continue to embrace this phrase in our daily lives, it remains a testament to the enduring popularity and continued usage of language. Next time you hear someone say, “Let’s call an audible,” you’ll have a newfound understanding of the phrase’s origins and the layers of meaning it carries. So, keep exploring the fascinating world of language and remember to appreciate the stories behind the phrases we use every day!

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